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Page 59 – Evolution of the Role of the Electors

Having demonstrated how political party involvement undermined and subverted the whole design of the Electoral College System, let us now examine the actual changes that took place. As in all evolutionary changes to a system as opposed to intelligently designed modifications, the practice changed first. The changes afterward made to the Constitution tended to justify what was already happening rather than to provide direction to achieve well thought out purposes. To start our examination, we will look at the two presidential elections immediately following the administration of George Washington.

The year that the Electors are chosen is called a presidential election year. This is inaccurate. A more precise designation would be a presidential Elector selection year. The counting of Electoral nominations (Phase 2) and the actual election of the president (Phase 3) take place the following year. This distinction is only significant if independently-thinking Electors each nominate the best potential candidates they can. If Electors are meeting to write down the names of predetermined candidates, it is only a technicality. Even though the expression is misleading, the elections are nearly always referred to this way; therefore, we will conform to the common terminology for this discussion.

The Election of 1796

In the election of 1796 there were 138 Electors. When the nominating votes of the Electors were counted (in 1797) John Adams was named President because a majority of the Electors had nominated him (the shortcut). A majority of the Electors was 70. John Adams received 71 electoral votes. Thomas Jefferson received 68 electoral votes. This was the highest number of votes after the selection of the President and therefore Jefferson was Vice-President. The nominees and the electoral votes for each were as follows:

John Adams 71
Thomas Jefferson 68
Thomas Pinckney 59
Aaron Burr 30
Samuel Adams 15
Oliver Ellsworth 11
George Clinton 7
John Jay 5
James Iredell 3
George Washington 2
John Henry 2
Samuel Johnston 2
Charles C. Pinckney 1

Unfortunately by 1796 the formation of parties and party manipulation of Electors was evident. As shown above, the nomination function of the Electors was still apparent. The fact that there were 13 individuals named by the Electors shows that there were still some independent-thinking Electors. One aspect of this system when applied in an evenly-divided party environment is that the likely result is a president and a vice-president from opposing parties. That was the result of this election. The parties didn’t like it.

– President/Vice-President Teams